The Chicago Blackhawks confirmed this morning that Marian Hossa(notes) wasn't given a physical by a team doctor until July 10, nine days after they agreed to a 12-year, $62.8 million deal with the free-agent winger.
When, and if, the Hawks examined Hossa has been a nagging loose end in this saga. Our interest was piqued when Tim Sassone of the Daily Herald, who broke the Hossa injury news, initially wrote that "it would be logical to assume the Hawks gave Hossa a physical before they agreed to the deal and were satisfied with the results."
In a follow-up post about the Blackhawks being aware of Hossa's preexisting rotator cuff injury, Sassone wrote: "Hossa was at his home in the Slovak Republic at the time he signed with the Hawks."
From spokesman Brandon Faber of the Blackhawks, via e-mail:
"After his contract was approved by the NHL on July 10 we brought him to Chicago to be examined by our doctor. At that point, the physical confirmed what we already knew which was the injury to his right shoulder.
"We knew about the injury before the physical so once the physical was given, all it did was confirm what we already knew."
Should Hossa have been given the once-over before signing his deal?
The fact that the contract was submitted to, and approved by, the NHL would indicate that its approval wasn't subject to a physical as other deals with players frequently are.
In the Blackhawks' defense, the nagging shoulder issue doesn't take away from Hossa's durability over the last several seasons; his injury history wouldn't make a battery of tests as mandatory as it would for, say, Brendan Morrison(notes) before the Washington Capitals signed him.
The difference, however, is that Morrison signed for one season, while Hossa signed for 12.
Once the NHL approved the deal, it's done. If some other medical malady popped up for Hossa in a post-signing physical, Chicago could have at best gotten short-term financial relief, or even suspended Hossa until he's healthy in an extreme case. But failing a physical would not have invalidated the contract, according to sources with knowledge of the process.
The Blackhawks claim they knew about the shoulder issue when signing Hossa, and there's no reason to doubt that. Every NHL player has his exit medical exams on "Getaway Day" after the season, and that's when dozens of hockey-related injuries come to light. The Red Wings knew he had a bum shoulder, and he played through it. If Chicago was comfortable knowing that it could require surgery when it signed Hossa, that's their prerogative.
There were clearly challenges for Chicago in getting Hossa checked out prior to the signing. For one, the speed of the negotiations, with other teams in pursuit; the geographic challenge of Hossa being overseas for another.
Still, the notion of handing out 12-year deal before giving a physical to a player who had an ACL injury in juniors and a nagging shoulder issue over the last season isn't going to sit well with the Blackhawks' growing number of critics.
In the end, it comes back to one's perception of the Hawks after these turbulent few weeks: Not giving Hossa a physical until July 10 is either a gamble the team apparently won, or part of a reckless managerial trend that included a cover-up of his ailment for good PR.